LONDON, UK – London Calling all from faraway lands… Apologies to The Clash for mangling their lyrics there but the 2016/2017 World Rugby HSBC 7s series, after many mile and faraway towns, has hit its 10th and final stop… London! Since England is the birth place of Rugby, this final stop never disappoints. With that, its time to preview the action that lays ahead via my @Eagles7s Preview & Tournament Analysis.
The USA’s showing in Paris, the most recent stop, was… Very Good. Over the last 6 legs, the @Eagles7s consistently qualifying for the cup and making the cup semi-finals in 5 of them. In Paris, they fought to finish 5th after a cup quarter-final loss. However, despite all of this progress and positive achievement, the Eagles have not won a leg this season. The won the London leg two years ago, and we are all hoping they can do it again, this year.
Let’s look at the 3 key issues going into this tournament:
Team Changes (+/-): There are no changes to squad as Life West’s 18-year-old Naima Fualaau remains as 13th man and Alex Schwarz is still in for injured star Danny Barrett.
Bench Mob: Coach Mike Friday has kept a very short bench. It his discretion but he might need to go a little deeper and see if some of the bench guys can make a difference. That means 8th man Maka Unufe has to get back to being a danger when he gets on, Dom Pati will have to make a greater case for himself along with Mikey Te’o. It is important that with no Danny Barrett, Mat Leuta must step up his game as a forward to help out the first choice forwards.
The Crucial Mistake: The reason the USA has made lots of progress but they struggle to win a leg is because they always make a crucial mistake in a big game. This can be a penalty, a turnover, an intercept or poor defense in loose play. Either way the USA always manages to make the one mistake that ends up costing them the match. If they can avoid it this weekend, they will be champions.
Optimist’s View: The Eagles have been so close, maybe this is the leg it finally happens.
Cynic’s View: The Eagles will repeat their Parisian feat and finish 5th.
My View: In a tough one, The Eagles will lose the semi-final for this leg and win the 3rd place match.
London 7s (#London7s ):
South Africa are the Series Champions following their win of the Paris leg. However there are plenty of positions still available in the standings. As England, Fiji and New Zealand battle for spots two through four. At the bottom of the standings table, Russia is ahead of Japan by 6 points and the team to finish last this season, will be relegated.
South Africa 7s
South Africa should win this group But they will be under pressure from the USA, as the Eagles look to defeat their bogey team. Kenya can be tough to predict because they push everyone close but they are clearly the favorite to finish third over Wales.
This will be the Group of Serious Illness. It is not quite death as none of the sides are leg winners. However, Scotland made the Paris Final, so they are dangerous and France and Argentina have made the cup playoffs a few times so anything can happen after the whistle blows. Argentina is our bet to top the group with Scotland riding the wave of last weekend into second. Though they will be fierce, we predict the French to finish third and Russia to bring up the rear.
New Zealand 7s
This will be the Group of Death. New Zealand will battle Fiji for the group winner, if you go by rankings and their 7s pedigree. However, If you look at the third team in the group Canada, you have to remember they won the Singapore leg, the stop before Paris, so they are not to be dismissed easily. Japan will unfortunately finish last in this group as they are just so far behind their opponents in class. They come to play every match, though, so beware.
England will win this group in all likelihood. They will face a strong challenge from an Australia side that is always dangerous and has become a greater threat in the second half of the circuit… Samoa should win third but they just shocked lots of people and made the Cup quarterfinals in Paris, losing to the USA in the 5th place match. They should not be written off but they also do not have a record of back to back quality performances. Spain are a pesky but less-talented side so they are a safe bet to finish last.
A live stream will be provided to viewers who want to watch the action on World Rugby’s website. If you want to watch later, I recommend youtube.
Finally, here are my predictions for the playoffs and the team that will win promotion to core status:
Challenge Trophy: Wales
That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter: @RugbyWrapUp, @Matt_McCarthy00, @Junoir Blaber, @JWB_RWU, @Luke Bienstock, @Ronan Nelson, @MichaelHalsey24, @MeetTheMatts, @Brian C Cole and @Declan Yeats.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.